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Fri, June 05

Who can claim road kill? Senators debate issue

PHOENIX — A Senate panel March 11 approved what essentially amounts to finders-keepers legislation when it comes to road kill.

Existing law says when a motorist accidentally hits an animal he or she is free to take it, subject to approval of a peace officer. But Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, said that isn’t sufficient.

HB 2594 would expand who can claim road kill to any “individual wishing to possess the carcass.’’ That same provision would apply when a seriously injured animal has to be euthanized.

And if an animal died of natural causes, the carcass can be claimed by whoever reports the animal.

The issue, Griffin said, is twofold.

First, she said, not everyone who hits an animal wants it. But current law says such “salvage’’ permits are available only to the driver and are not transferable.

Griffin said there also are situations where an animal may run into the side of a vehicle, wander off and die somewhere else. This allows whoever finds the body to claim it.

So how often does an animal run into a vehicle?

Testimony before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy suggests more often than one might think.

“This has happened to me where a deer has run into my vehicle,’’ Griffin told colleagues. “It just deliberately ran into my bumper.’’

Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Green Valley, told of a friend who had a brand-new, fawn-colored vehicle.

“And the deer ran into it, too,’’ she said.

Sen. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, added his own experience.

“I did have the same thing,’’ he said.

“It actually ran into where the side mirror is, right into it,’’ Gowan continued. “I’m driving and all I see is this face.’’

While the experiences cited deal with deer, the legislation — and the ability to claim the carcass — would apply to all “game animals’’ who meet a similar fate. That also includes elk, bear, antelope, bighorn sheep, bison, javelina, mountain lions, tree squirrels and cottontail rabbit.

The unanimous approval by the panel sends the measure, which already has been approved by the House, to the full Senate.

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